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Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press
President Barack Obama walks to board Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March, 21, 2012. Obama heads to Nevada and New Mexico on the first of a planned, two-day excursion to kick off his three-state swing to promote his energy policies.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his Republican presidential opponents are tapping into a nation of frustrated commuters, seeking the upper hand on energy issues as rising gas prices dominate the political landscape.

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Obama was defending his energy record in Nevada and New Mexico on Wednesday against Republicans who say he has emphasized alternative energy over traditional oil drilling.

Gasoline hit a national average of $3.864 a gallon Wednesday. Obama says drilling for new oil alone won't solve the nation's energy woes. Republican Mitt Romney says Obama should fire his top energy advisers, calling them the "gas hike trio."

Polls show an impatient public. Many say the price of gasoline is something a president could address.

Obama also makes stops in Oklahoma and Ohio on Thursday to outline his energy agenda.